Jun 9, 2009 - Society    38 Comments

Failed to "Touch"


Aks at fiverupees recently wrote a post praising the efforts of Greenstar marketing for making a song and video about Touch Condoms.

Personally, I was disappointed with the campaign. It was a great opportunity squandered. I was monitoring a project about awareness raising for sexual and reproductive health and as part of the project, the ad/song was shown to a group of people who have neither ever heard the word condom nor were they familiar with the concept of family planning. I witnessed one such viewing in a rural settlement on the outskirts of Karachi. When the viewers were shown the song, not a single person got the message – that people need to plan their families and should space having children and stay protected against STDs and STIs. When asked, most of the respondents either thought it was a wedding song; it had something to do with rich people getting married and living happily ever after or it was about selling housing schemes to rich people. Not a single one of them connected with the message of the advertisement/song.

The only thing new about the ad was that it actually used the word condom for the first time in a TVC (television commercial) which is commendable but it failed to tell people what condom is and why it should be used? Its relevance, not only to family planning but also for other health and safety reason should have been spelled – loud and clear, especially in HIV high risk country like Pakistan (their own wesbite says that Touch is being targeted to high risk groups for disease prevention). Sadly, Greenstar marketing screwed the campaign gallactically, like all good things are screwed in Pakistan.

What I fail to understand that they spent HUGE amounts of money in an ad campaign that did not even reach out to its target audience – the uneducated Pakistani masses who produce something like 9 children per woman. What was the point? Why there was no pre testing done before the campaign was launched. Greenstar is a social marketing firm and they must have gotten the contract either from government of Pakistan or some foreign funding agency to run this campaign. If the government of Pakistan paid for it, then it was our (the tax payers) money badly spent and if it was foreign aid then the future tax payers will be paying for the advert. In any case, the loser is the common Pakistani, who did not benefit from a campaign that was supposed to target and educate its massive percentage of population in child bearing age and ended up paying for the cost of a marketing campaign that only benefited the ad agency and people connected to its marketing.

The campaign of Touch Condoms failed to ‘touch’ its target audience, what irony!


Clip to Evernote


  • That last line was terrible. Really bad.

    Agree with the rest of the post. Don’t know what AKS was talking about — on our blog, I told him that most people would think it’s an ad for cell-phones. I’m glad to see the research supports me. I hope AKS comes here and reads this.

  • I agree with you basically.

    But the little overt message was quite embarrassing for people not just from religious families — but also from the one AKS belongs to.

    So how can one expect a condom ad to tell a family sitting in a TV room “what a condom is and how it is used”?

    Don’t know if I am clear on this or not.

  • since the bad puns are flowing, i would venture that greenstar might have been “tempted to touch” upon a more open message. but perhaps their point is to slowly get people comfortable with the idea of condoms being said on air. slowly, once it becomes accepted, they can work on more overt messages. it’s not like the f*cking in pakistan is going to stop overnight, so they have time… let’s hope

  • Hi Tazeen,

    Thanks for sharing your insight. I agree with you that the ad would’ve made more sense to rural women had it been more informative. But i don’t that was the purpose of this particular ad – family planning ads have been doing that for ages, and lady health workers are probably the best resource in this regard for rural women.

    The reason I find this ad to be effective, and important, is because it doesn’t hide away from sex or from mentioning condoms. I’m pretty sure its the first time that an ad in Pakistan has shown a man buying a condom. This is an extremely important image as it is mostly men who will buy condoms but most Pakistani men are ridiculously shy about buying condoms.

    Case in point, a friend was asked by a friend of his, a MARRIED guy, if he could please go and buy lubricant for him because a) first of all he didn’t know what lubricants were and b) because he was too shy to go buy it. This is a well educated married man, living in our socio-economic circles who felt ashamed asking a store clerk / pharmacist for lubricant.

    Therefore, I don’t think the ad was meant to educate anyone, least of all rural women. It appears to be an ad that sells a lifestyle, that informs people that condoms are not something one should be ashamed of.

    Ahsan in critique over at fiverupees mentioned that this ad could’ve doubled as an ad for Ufone or Mobilink, tea or mattresses. But I don’t see what’s so wrong with that? In fact, isn’t it great that we now have an ad that treats condoms like any other product?

  • i dont live in pakistan so i have not seen the ad.but from the video you posted,i think,first of all,in the land where electricity is a rarity,showing expansive ads on tv have not much of a value at all.secondly,70 percent of the population is living in rural areas which even dont have access to bijli AND tv.thirdly,i agree with you that most of the people have no idea what is a condom.and as far as i know,condoms are expansive.at least the one my hubby bought.a land where it is difficult to get a proper meal,who would spend money on condoms?and lastly,i have to say it is a bit awkward for general public to sit with their folks and watch ads about condoms.i call myself educated and fairly open minded,but i wont watch such ads with my father or FIL.

  • i had a chance to talk with an ex green star marketing manager abt the marketing startegies of contraceptive products and he talked at length about the organization’s marketing campaigns in the rural areas, but this particualr ad only seemed to be for the hip urban, perhaps teenage class? didnt make sense!

  • IRONY 🙂
    doesnt even touch the rural folks tangentially!

    nice song, nice models, nice locations..quite chic!

  • It actually looks like one of those happy-happy song videos. Nothing more. Nothing less.

  • Ahsan and Tazeen:
    I don’t think the purpose of this ad was to provide instruction in family planning and condom usage, therefore measuring the success of the ad in correspondence with how much the target population learned from it is a bit unfair.

    Which is not to say that this kind of instruction isn’t important, but I’ve heard from development workers and health professionals that people in Pakistan are loathe to talk about sex or protection because of the embarrassment/shame factor. As AKS pointed out, this is true even of some people in our demographic. So if this ad helps make people cringe less when someone approaches them to talk about family planning, then I reiterate, it is a job well done.

    What Green Star needs to do now is capitalize on this publicity and send health workers to the field in droves, with truckloads of touch condoms, jingle playing in the background. Sort of like an ice-cream truck.

  • True, true. But it was still a teeny weeny small step ahead.

  • The marketing done here is most of the time just based on wht v r taught in r class rooms so most of the times they fail to hit the target just like this one.

    On the other hand I have serious doubts if this ad will even change r society’s thinking pattern. Plus let’s just first try to correct r basics. My view point is; that will produce faster results.

  • It’s too bad that this ad campaign wasn’t more effective. I enjoyed the video it was beautifully done but must have missed it’s mark. Nine children per woman, really? wow! I enjoyed my visit.

  • Can’t see the ad from my present machine, but I’ll share with you a story.

    AIDS/HIV prevention ads were everywhere on TV when I was a kid. They mentioned condoms. I recall wondering what was that and asked the parents who were baking a cake at that point. They looked at each other and changed the topic. I would have been 6 or 7 then.

    My point is, maybe telling what a condom is and why it’s used may end up with audience that it wasn’t targeted for in the first place. Perhaps social and health workers are best to impart this knowledge

  • the song is catchy, but that is about it…
    but then isnt this song deal a bit toooooo lengthy?

    they can never come close to the durex advertising…
    they wanna say so much and yet they cant which makes this side of advertising all hanging by strings…
    phakhhhhhh it breaks more than mends…

  • p.s. but hell it is so much better than that tharki ad they started with!
    damn that ad!

  • I would agree with AKS. It’s a beginning if anything. My parents don’t change the channel when it comes on (prob because I have the remote and I am 28), so I guess they’ve accepted it.

    And you just can’t be explicit on TV. Not in Islamic Republic of Pak where even showing men without sirts or women in undergarments is a big NO-NO.

    So I hope this allows them to break into some taboo areas.

  • The song is just lovely.
    But it could be about anything. It makes the whole process of sex so sanitized, so upper class. And does not “Toush” at all. Tell me, why has it become imperative in South Asia to make condom or birth control advertising family friendly. India is the same- the whole subtle inuendo about “Nirodh” condoms( will email you the ad, if I can find it ) and so on.( At least in India they did have more sexually explicit stuff in films and such like- I am assuming Pakistani movies are not like that- have only seen some TV serials, which are so awesome). I think it is high time we realize that the onl words we can use are X-rated to explain what a condom is, what birth control and sexual health are. What really surprised me in the song was that the condom surfaced AFTER the young couple had their child. Surely young “elite” so westernized couples would engage in some species of family planning post marriage and then reproduce( but this is my pet peeve). I mean they both looked like they had studied in the US or UK( just saying)!
    Sorry for the post-like comment, but you always make me think

  • although i had defended the advert, here is an example of the best possible way of treating this subject in a subcontinental context…


  • Agree with AKS. The ad is intended less to educate and more to raise our comfort level regarding such otherwise taboo subjects. Finally the word “condom” is being heard on prime time television just like any other product. Now that the cat is out of the bag, its time for Greenstar and its ilk to go full monty and unleash the beast. Start waving some dildos around. Show some sideboob. Okay, maybe not literally. But just be a little bolder thats all.

  • I don’t even get the wordings.. “suno zara kushi ki aahat” isnt a condom supposed to stop just such little footsteps?

    Total stupidity… and a waste of money sort of ad campaign.. but then we have film stars dancing for tea ads so..i guess its all relevant

  • I wonder who uses condoms in married relationship? I used it for a month or 2 when I got married, and after that my wife was on pills. Before the marriage, I was off course using condoms. And sometimes, I still use it for extra marital incidents (that are far and few).

    But are there any good statistics that vast majority of Pakistani couples use condoms?


  • //What Green Star needs to do now is capitalize on this publicity and send health workers to the field in droves, with truckloads of touch condoms, jingle playing in the background. Sort of like an ice-cream truck.//


    They are a social marketing firm, they do not do advocacy and awareness raising at the ground, that is why it is so important that they use medium such as Tv and radio to reach out to maximum of people.


    The only tiny teeny step, as i mentioned in my post, is that they used the word condom for the first time and yes it matters a lot but it is NOT enough.

  • Faisal,

    I did not even notice the words, I was too miffed at the concept of video and choice of models (they showed a teenager getting pregnant and becoming a mother – as if all Pakistan now needs is more teenage mothers) that i somehow missed the lyrics. I so agree with you …

    Anon 14:29,

    This is too much information about your choice of contraceptive, I am sure we can do without it.

  • I have no set opinions about the ad. I have a few questions about your criticism of it, though.

    Your main points appear to be that a) it has failed to hit the target market and b) it is thus a waste of taxpayer money.

    How do we know what the target market is? Has anyone here talked to Greenstar? What were the communication objectives? Because if most of you are right and they are targeting the rural segment, then they’ve done a horrible job. Failed miserably. But if they’re targeting the urban market, SEC B upwards, then it’s not that bad, I think.

    I confess ignorance – I don’t know where Greenstar gets its money from. But are we sure it gets its money from the government?

    It claims to be a non-governmental organization and if, as such, it gets its money from a foreign agency, then our future taxpayers don’t need to worry, it’s private not public debt in that case.

  • hope next time…they go little less fancy and little bit more contextual relevance 😛

  • wow.

    that was really really….erm…..subtle!

    no wonder noone got it!

    also. too long. the song.

  • I agree with nsahmed. For a rural population, Ads targeted towards women matter a lot. I have actually seen good Ads in Junejo period.

    In urban population, I am a bit confused what this Ad’s relevance is. If its targted towards unmarried couples, then it makes some sense. But how many are they? For married couples, it does not make such sense either, except advocating condoms use early in the marriage, to prevent first child in an “accident”. In this Ad, this point was not driven that the couple’s life was destroyed because of a child in the young years.

  • This was an awareness campaign??? Any thing which starts with a yo youngster with a guitar slung over his back is the product of an infantile mind.

  • Tazeen:

    LOL at your comments about Anon14:29.

    But also, green star does seem to (somewhat) have the infrastructure for a follow up campaign – their website says that “Today, 19 products and services are provided through the Greenstar Franchise of over 18,000 male and female doctors, female paramedics, and pharmacists”. So if they decide to do works at the grassroots level, they can. Furthermore, it appears that “Greenstar touches millions of low-income Pakistanis every year through mass media, community meetings, and thousands of private-sector medical clinics and retail outlets nationwide”. *giggle smirk*

  • So what do you suggest? Should they have given wikipedia link of Condom or should have started a debate on Morning show about Condoms? or you were expecting a video ,’Condom for Dummies’?

  • Hi Tazeen,

    I agree with you, but unfortunately given how pathetically close-minded our country is, these kinds of areas must be tread lightly until people’s minds open up and more open conversation is possible. Ironically Islamic jurists have had no problems talking openly about sex (I just reviewed a book on Islam and sex on the Bazm-e-Rindaan blog), and historically Islam has allowed and even encouraged contraception and family planning. Perhaps this is something that could be talked about openly.

  • After viewing the ad, I was unsure of what the ad was all about. Its such a sad effort to produce an ad to aware audience but failing miserably to do so .. 🙁
    What a waste of money and acting, Its a shame really … This ad could have easily passed for a ‘marriage website’ market, No ?


  • Interestingly enough some of the guys at our office sing this song out loudly coz it’s just so catchy. I think subliminally this song has got the message through but only time will tell : P

  • In india lately they’ve been advertising about condom by making people grow out of the taboo called the word “condom”. See this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hv0BDNryX84
    There are a series of ads in the same line.

  • It is sad that campaigns like this don’t make an impact like they are intended to.What’s worse is the level of denial the government is in.This is one issue sure to blow up in our face.

  • Not bad. I think it is long enough so that the older audience would lose attention and the younger ones, couples or whatever… get the idea that it’s ok to buy condoms in Pakistan. Of course, it is for middle and upper classes but they need this message too. Even middle class Pakistanis are so backwards when it comes to having children and having boys esp. Well, that is really the main problem so I don’t know if it is even a question of condoms or not. Everyone just wants to have boys and they keep trying for that.

  • But I remember there was a program being telecasted on PTV about sex purely in Urdu and of course my parents changed the channel. And then there were the sabz sitara commercials with the “Aids la-ilaj hai” line which we stopped changing channels on after some time. So I don’t know why this is such a big deal. If they keep it in urdu and make it look serious, it won’t miss people’s attention. But I guess it’s supposed to be catchy for the kewl dudes out there, as someone mentioned that guys in his office sing this song out loud. If it’s getting to the young male audience that’s great. For the larger audience though, I think the clear and direct Sabz Sitara commercials were just fine.

  • I failed to understand why are they showing COndom Ads during circket matches? do they think a team “rape” another one or they just want “to enlighten” young minds?

    the hilarious thing is that they show condom Ad and then they show Zong Ad in which a girl reveals her phone number. funny.

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